Monday, July 10, 2006

Obsolete ICT Courses?

Interesting. Our Minister of Human Resources blames the large number of unemployed graduates in the country who took Information Communications Technology (ICT) courses in the local institutions on "outdated courses", as reported in the Star here.
They are jobless because what they had learnt has become obsolete.

Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn said the courses they studied were not the latest because the institutions had not kept up with changing technology and job market requirements.
Apparently what is in demand, are "graduates who took certified professional software development courses under the ministry’s Graduate Retraining Scheme".

Err... I'm not so sure. Personally, having hired probably more than a hundred "ICT professionals" over the past couple of years, my key criteria has never been the nice sounding certificate courses such as "Microsoft Certified Engineer" (MCE) or "Sun Java Developer Course" etc.

As a comparative example, I wouldn't hire a press officer because she knows how to use a word processor like Microsoft Word. I would hire her because she is extremely competent in the English language. It doesn't matter if the bulk of the text she had been studying was Shakespeare ("obsolete"). If she's good with the language and possess the necessary thinking skills, then I'll hire her even if she has never touched a computer in her life.

Similarly, I've a strong preference of hiring fresh graduates who have had their brains "exercised" in the universities. It doesn't matter if the "languages" they studied were "obsolete" like Pascal, "C", Fortran and not the latest hip programming languages like Java or .NET. Conversely, some of these candidates in possession of the supposedly valuable certificates may be exposed to Java or .NET, but are not good programmers.

Hence, I'm not sure who has been providing the "requests by the hundreds" to the Ministry of Human Resources for these certificate holders but I'll be extremely displeased if our local universities computer science programmes becomes a mere training ground to produce MCEs or Microsoft Certified System Engineers (MCSE) or Sun Certified Java Developers. My views on the cause of graduate unemployment has been written extensively on this blog e.g., here, here and here.

On another matter, according to the Minister, apparently many graduates "did not know how to get information on job vacancies advertised in the ministry’s electronic labour exchange." As such, Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn suggested that electronic kiosks would now be placed at places frequented by youths such as shopping complexes. You must be kidding me. Would you go to a shopping complex, visit a kiosk and shop for jobs?

I've written separately on the Electronic Labour Exchange proposed in the 9th Malaysia Plan here. Its time for the Ministry to get its priorities right.

20 comments:

black mojo said...

Tony
What do you expect when there are donkeys up there?
Always shifting the blame on othes but never upon them selves
If it is the education system failure then the ministers and senior officers and those in the universities should have their heads chopped off!
As it is, most of these donkies remain there forever..
Malaysia Bolih!

Anonymous said...

Seems our local employers prefer APIIT graduates ..

..inspired :)

Anonymous said...

PSMB and MOE could work together to re-examine the ICT curriculum at the undergrad and diploma levels...

MOE planners and PSMB IT engineers could visit the IT industry captains on what are the up-to-date IT aspects that fresh graduates should and ought to know..after all, the captains of the IT industry are the ones in daily contact with customers, associates, colleagues and peers who are all so involved in all initiatives of the IT world....

BTW, I heard one of the bosses today at the office telling off someone.." where is your brain this morning? You left it in the car park?.."

..So how to exercise the brain then?...


..inspired :)

daniel said...

All these cockamamie ideas truly exposes the ignorance and incompetence of the minister, the DGs and the whole bunch of his side-kicks and advisors...sigh..

clk said...

It is not about technical knowledge at tertiary level education as Tony rightfully pointed out. Its all about thinking skills out there, being resourceful, how to smell answers to questions (the world is an open book).

If its all about technical knowledge, many of those in CIMB for example wouldn't be there today including the CEO..

Anonymous said...

"If its all about technical knowledge, many of those in CIMB for example wouldn't be there today including the CEO.."

Hahaha.. what about those "directors" at ECM Libra?

Anonymous said...

Having taught at a private university college, the materials taught are often recycled and the graduates are then employed by the college as they are cheaper than their lecturers. Thus the expertise gets diluted as time passes and the skills not really passed down but rehashed theoretically rather than practically. The all rounded sound learning by a graduate gets disposed by the quest of the university college for more profits that are then paid to the higher levels of the above as fees for licenses. Really, it is all a money game not a quest for better education or employment.

Anonymous said...

"Hahaha.. what about those "directors" at ECM Libra?"

Think about Tajuddin of MAS also.

YT Kuah said...

It is my understanding that qualifications such as 'Microsoft Certified Engineer' are usually obtained after graduation, i.e. as a post-graduation, working course undertaken when one has started working in the specific field and wishes to have some sort of formal certification.

Tony has stated that specific language factor is not important. However, unless the employer is willing to invest to a whole lot of training from the ground up, wouldn't it be advisable for the graduate to have at least some aptitude for the industry languages, like Java, or .NET. ? Of course, the employer will still have to provide some training in advanced concepts to the graduate, either from senior developers or courses.

One comment pointed out that technical skills are as important as thinking skills. So how would that apply to ICT? What would make a good graduate programmer?

Anonymous said...

emplyers just need workers. thats how malaysian companies work. cheap labour to maximise profit. to make things worse, educaiton here is very unreliable and not standardised. so employers have no choice but to look at certifications. im sure if you own a company, you would agree with me. programmers or engineers or professional workers are just needed to get the job done. crtical thinkin is not required. its too expensive to higher them anyway. asian business or the chinaman-tauke thinking is different from the west. cheap labour is more important than anything else. the focus is quantity not quality. so the debate whether its important to have intelligent workers vs get-the-job-done workers is not applicable here.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous... and that's why you seldom see Malaysian companies get become global companies. When you pay peanuts, you get monkey. Critical thinking skills is not required for ICT jobs? How about the whole process of implementing a solution to a problem? Critical thinking not required?

Anonymous said...

Some IT jobs do not require tertiary training. I think more importantly, we have to match employer needs to degree graduate skills or diploma holders skills

..inspired :)

My Stubborn Self said...

Hi Tony,

I'm working in a multi national company that offers IT services to large corporations in Malaysia. We specialise in a lot of business segment i.e. managed services, telecommunications, finance and etc.

Technology is always evolving and changing. We are facing with the challenge from business needs and we need to constantly upgrade our IT skills too. We can see newer and more advance version of software are being introduced everytime. Example: When I started to work in this company 7 years ago, we were using Oracle 8 database and now it is Oracle 10g.

What I like to stress here is, in order for universities to create graduates that meet the criterias for employers like the company I'm working for. They need to always upgrade their syllabus and constantly reviewing current syllabus. At the same time, make changes to those obsolete one. Even now there are plenty of changes in MS Excel 2003 comparing to MS Excel 2000 . Does a graduate know how to fully use MS Excel 2003?

YT Kuah said...

to stubborn self:

Ah, but precisely how much of reviewing should one do? At the rate IT is going, hardware alone is doubling every six months or so. Software might be growing at a slightly slower rate. How practical is it for universities to update to 'cutting edge' technology every time? Consider that most companies do not even adopt cutting edge stuff until 3/4 years. For example, Java came out in 1995, but it was only in 2001 that my university fully switched from Pascal to Java.

Anyway it is not for universities to teach how to use particular tools. That, ideally should be left to the student. What universities should be teaching (IT) is an appreciation of the current software development lifecycle, how it came about, its shortcomings, and maybe how it is changing and maturing...

Anonymous said...

This is the learning outcomes stated for my IT program...


1. Integration of business & technology in a sector context
2. IT architecture, design and development skills
3. Project management skills
4. Learning-to-learn skills
5. Collaboration (or team) skills
6. Change management skills for enterprise systems
7. Skills for working across countries, cultures and borders
8. Communication skills

As you can see, it's beyond just IT skills. Skill number 4 is of particular importance given the fast-changing nature of IT...

moo_t said...

WTF the nonsense the minister is talking about. Education is a process teaching people to THINK, it never restrict to teach people to use particular tools.

For example, programmming is about development life cycle, team work; because there is no such job in the world will give you the exact tools that you learn. A good foundation will guarantee a fast adoption to the new tools and give better employments opportunity.

I have encounter many so called "new technology developer", which fail to produce a simple pseudocode and have problem understanding simple flowchart, in short, some of them can't really think straight. Despite poor foundation, some even reluctant to learn their own weakness and their "shining academic scores" become the worst obstacle for their learning abilities.

BTW, in IT, technology change, but the fundamental NEVER change. I have encounter many smart-alecks that though new technology do wonders and ignoring the basic rules. End up they mess up the implementation in long run. BTW, besides locals, many CIO mess up the project by hiring "expert" base on "technology" than "fundamental".

Bigjoe99 said...

Is it a mismatch of skills? Obviously but what skills? Frankly its a mismatch of fundamental skills - math, science, logic, language, discipline. The main failure is not in the college although there is but at the very core of our elementary and secondary schools. Don't be fooled that its only in National Schools and also in Chinese schools too, there is failure there too but not to such a bad degree.

The worst part of it is that the IT world has moved on already. No longer is technical skills enough to compete in the IT world, its mostly now about design, problem solving and creativity . Sure its still a necessity but its not going to give you many job choices anymore. You need to be able to learn fast and apply things quickly.

Anonymous said...

I thnk UM faculty Computer Science no standard, no wonder the graduates no class! A lot of their lecturers half past six and failing to get Phds .Apitt is definitely better

Tony P said...

Er... um... I think I need to put my two sens in on Anon's comment above.

APIIT is NOT definitely better than UM Computer Science. In fact, IMHO, barring exceptions, I'm much more likely to take UM grads than those from APIIT, especially those who graduated from APIIT in recent years.

Anecdoctal evidence points to the fact that standards have dropped a lot in the last couple of years at APIIT - which I attribute to their aggressive enrolment programmes.

Tony P

Anonymous said...

With the exception of a few resource-rich leading universities,which do not exist in Malaysia, it is understandable that local universities are in no position to always produce graduates with the latest technical skills or skills that meet the requirements of a rapidly changing work environment. It is only reasonable that employers provide further training to new recruits on those skills they want these recruits to have or when the skills of current employees have become obsolete. In the old days, those with spreadsheet Lotus 123 skills were retrained to use Excel and those with skills in using proprietary systems were retrained to work in an open-system environment.